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China resumes testing AVIC AG600 Kunlong flying boat


China is about to resume work to further test the first of four planned prototypes of its AG600 “Kunlong”, the world’s largest amphibious aircraft whose technical characteristics will enable it to cover all of the South China Sea. The AG600 is bigger and has a greater take-off weight than Japan's US-2, the world's most advanced flying boat.


China to resume testing AVIC AG600 Kunlong flying boat AVIC AG600 "Kunlong" (Picture source: Wikipedia)


Designed by Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) and assembled by CAIGA, the first prototype of AG600 "Kunlong" amphibious aircraft is being worked on in Jingmen. Powered by four WJ-6 turboprops, it is one of the largest flying boats with a 53.5 t (118,000 lbs) MTOW. After five years of development, assembly started in August 2014, it was rolled out on 23 July 2016 and it made its first flight from Zhuhai Airport on 24 December 2017. It should be certified in 2021, with deliveries starting in 2022.

The project had been suspended for over a month due to the Covid-19 epidemic in Hubei, and the prototype plane was at risk of damage without maintenance. (AVIC) sent a reinforcement team to Hubei in mid-March, during the province's lockdown, to start preparing a new series of tests of the G600. The operations are now carried on at full capacity.

The AG600 is 36.90 meters (121 feet) long with a 38.80 meter wingspan, similar to the size of a Boeing 737. It has a capacity of 50 passengers, and can fly at a maximum speed of 500km/h (310 mph), with a longest duration of 12 hours. So, if deployed in the southern island province of Hainan, the aircraft would be capable of reaching anywhere in the South China Sea within four hours. However, the AG600 can operate only when sea waves are no more than 2-meter high. This would limit the AG600's use in the South China Sea, where large waves occasionally occur during seasonal monsoons or typhoons.